How Do Balanced Armature Headphones Work?

Balanced Armature Headphones are perfect headphones for music listening. They transmit the sound with all of its details with precise nuance. These headphones are well-known for their minimum acoustic distortion and reproduction of a very balanced sound throughout the frequency range.

In ordinary dynamic headphones, a round membrane is associated with a magnetic coil that operates to produce the magnetic field. When current flows through the coil, a magnetic field arises, which causes the membrane to oscillate on the corresponding frequency, and you will hear the sound. This principle is different in Balanced Armature Headphones, which is a class member of portable acoustics.

The history and principle of operation of balanced armature
The history and principle of operation of balanced armature | Source: Unsplash

1. The history and principle of operation of balanced armature

The principle of operation of balanced armature headphones was first introduced in back 1920. The engineers did their best to replace the traditional horn acoustics with a new level of electric sound. The balanced armature headphones have a very different principle than conventional speakers and headphones.

The balanced armature’s voice coil or armature coil is located around the metal “U-shaped” plate. This coil is also known as an anchor. The anchor coil is centrally placed concerning the electromagnetic field and runs along the axis. When current flows through this anchor coil, an electromagnetic field establishes which cause movement of the miniature membrane. The oscillation of this membrane produces the sound which you hear.

Like the principle of operation, headphones with the balanced armature anchor have a different packing of the sound emitter. The housing in which the emitter is enclosed differs from traditional headphones and sound devices. It has a resemblance to a miniature vessel.

The balanced armature technology was imperfect in its early days due to which it was not popular in its early era. The Baldwin Mica Diaphragm introduced its first model, which was based on this technology, and it was criticized by consumers very severely due to its imperfection. These models produce a very poor and deteriorate sound, and there was no distinguishing between low and high frequencies. These models produced an excessively dumped middle frequency. Due to all these reasons, first, balanced armature technology models are not suitable for high-quality music listening. But on the other hand, the headphones having this technology has a tremendous potential to produce clear human speech. Due to this virtue, balanced armature headphones were a part of military communication equipment for a long time.

There is another advantage of balanced armature sound emitters. Due to their miniature armature part, these sound emitters can be easily placed into human auricles, while the traditional sound emitters cannot be used for this purpose. Sound equipment having balanced armature technology are very popular in medicine and military industries.

An American company named as Westone is considered as the pioneer in the construction of the latest balanced armature technology. Back in 1959, Ron Morgan, an electronic businessman, founded a business of production of custom made in-ear headphones in the state of Colorado (USA). Ron Morgan’s business has a little bit successful among the consumers, and he has received the price of his customer’s auricles. After Ron Morgan, the work on this technology was continued in a better way. 

Over the next 30 years, Morgan’s business was established very much, and it was the sole producer of in-ear headphones in the market. He was also involved in the manufacturing of hearing aid equipment for the military.

In 1987, Westone started manufacturing headphones for musicians by collaborating with another famous company named as Etymotic. These headphones were named as “Monitors” later. Etymotic was responsible for the production of the packing and filling material of the headphone while Westone manufactured soft earplugs.

In 1991, Etymotic started the development of manufacturing of legendary model of the first single-driver Etymotic ER-4 in-ear headphones. The design of sound emitter having balanced armature technology was open a new era of audiophiles. It was quite capable of producing a distortion-free sound. The golden age of balanced armature anchor was started in 1995. A contract was signed between Ultimate Ears and Westone for the manufacturing of customized balanced armature headphones for musicians.

After a few years of this contract, the star performers loved these customized armature headphones and became a part of the daily routine life of music lovers.


Jays-q Jays Balanced Armature Headphones
Jays-q Jays Balanced Armature Headphones | Source: Jaysheadphones

2. Types and numbers of drivers

A wide range of fantastic models of balanced armature headphones is available in the market with different prices range. Apart from the price, there is another feature of these headphones, which must be considered. It is the number of drivers emitters present or installed in the headphone.

The main advantage of the balanced armature headphones is their small and miniature body. The too tiny and small body of these headphones has a disadvantage. Also, the bass line is completely absent in these headphones. Don’t worry; there is a solution to this problem. You can install additional drivers to overcome this problem, or increasing the volume is another option.

There are different balanced armature headphones available in the market, such as one-driver, two-driver, or even five-driver, based on the number of drivers. You are probably thinking about what is meant by the number of drivers. The answer is simple. The number of drivers implies the number of emitters installed in the headphone. It should be kept in mind that the increase in the number of drivers cannot enhance the sound quality of the headphone. Each of driver you will increase, it will improve the frequency range of the headphone. At the same time, you need additional filters in the result of which phase distortion will produce. So, by increasing the drivers, you will feel that your sound is no more natural.

Volume is the musician’s main focus when selecting a suitable headphone for them because they have to spend a very large time in a piece of powerful multi-watt equipment. If you are an average listener, every new driver will merely increase your headphone cost with disappointing results.

Pinnacle P1 High Fidelity Audiophile In-Ear Headphones - Acoustic Diffuser
Pinnacle P1 High Fidelity Audiophile In-Ear Headphones – Acoustic Diffuser | Source: MEE Audio

3. What you should know before buying a Balanced Armature Headphone

Due to the complex manufacturing process, the balanced armature headphones’ prices are slightly higher than the dynamic one. Like all other products, balanced armature headphones also have some crucial features which should be considered before buying:

  • If you are a fan of low saturated bass, you should look for additional volumes rather than additional drivers or emitters. Hybrid-type headphones are best for this purpose as they have traditional speakers with balanced armatures driver, which produces both medium and high-frequency sound. 
  • Single-driver models of balanced armature headphones are not suitable for the production of the booming meaty bass.
  • Balanced armature is distinguished by a flat amplitude-frequency characteristic and reproduce sound without the frequency rise characteristic of dynamic drivers in a certain area.
  • The use of fewer drivers is key to a natural and clear sound.
  • There is no effect of resistance on the sensitivity of the balanced armature headphones.

While purchasing a balanced armature headphone, always keep the price to quality ratio in your mind. Each listener has its own different priorities and likenesses. You can easily compare the features and characteristics of dynamic and balanced armature headphones. Armature headphone produces much clearer and natural sound. It is best to listen to yourself before making a choice.

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